For a moment, Bing edges ahead of Yahoo, but this race is far from over

A screenshot from Microsoft's new search engine, Bing. New data shows that yesterday Bing overtook Yahoo in the search engine race, claiming second place, behind Google. Some bloggers have heralded the news as groundbreaking, although the traffic could just be a result of high levels of web buzz.

It was the news that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had been hoping for: Yesterday, Bing, the shiny new Microsoft search engine, took another (small) step toward knocking Google off its perch at the top of the fractious search heap. According to figures released by StatCounter, an analytics service, for a brief moment on Thursday, Bing edged ahead of Yahoo, to capture second place behind Google, the reigning powerhouse.

The figure, which had Bing at 5.56 percent of searches conducted in the US – over Yahoo's 5.17 percent – was temporary, and was far outstripped by the 71.99 percent share claimed by Google. Furthermore, by Friday morning, Yahoo and Bing were scrapping again – one figure, published by PC World today, put Yahoo back in second place with 10.75 percent of US searches, over Bing's 10.08. When examined on a global scale, Bing had fallen even further behind – 3.73 percent to 5.55 percent – Yahoo in user searches.

Bing was first unveiled on May 28, at the All Things Digital Conference. Microsoft promised it would be live by June 3, but the service went online two days early. This week, Microsoft unveiled a major multimedia advertising campaign, comprised of banner ads, video spots, and interactive displays on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The ads position Bing as a "decision engine" – a tool more dynamic and friendly than Google. Early reviews of the service have been largely favorable.

Still, the race is far from over. As other bloggers have pointed out, it's very possible that yesterday's spike is a result of the buzz surrounding Bing – and the flood-the-zone advertising campaign. "I think Microsoft may be on to something with Bing, but the decision to battle Google on their own turf seems questionable to me," writes Lance Loveday on Search Engine Land. "Even if Bing ends up being a “better” search engine than Google, the availability of an incrementally better Search Engine isn’t going to cause a massive shift in consumer behavior patterns."

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